volcom polo air shopping center proposed for Richmond Valley
Even before a shovel hits the ground, developers of an outlet mall in Richmond Valley say they are in the final stages of signing leases with national high end retailers.
No one is naming names, but don’t be surprised if Michael Kors and Polo Ralph Lauren end up in a few years in Richmond Valley and not on Richmond Avenue.
The proposed open air shopping center with waterfront access is so unique it will keep Staten Islanders from heading to off Island malls, say those who have worked on the plans for the last year and believe the outlet center will encourage a reverse commute of shoppers from New Jersey and the tri state area to the South Shore.
More than 60 stores, a 14 screen movie theater, restaurants and underground parking are part of the designs being reviewed now by state and city agencies. The development team hopes to have approvals by the end of 2008 to build a $90 million waterfront mall next to the Outerbridge Crossing.
“It’s not a straightforward outlet center; that concept is dead. Now there has to be a lifestyle component. We are envisioning a place where people can come and shop, catch a movie, and grab some dinner at a local or national restaurant . we’ve kind of taken the best aspects of different outlet centers and concentrated them into one,” said James Prendamano, a Realtor with Casandra Properties who represents mall developer Leib Puretz.
Puretz is the same man who has invested heavily over the last few years on the North Shore, building 200 condominiums in three new residential buildings in Tompkinsville and New Brighton. He recently started work on a fourth building in St. George and he plans to erect at least two more along the waterfront.
On the South Shore, he paid $18 million to buy 25 acres of vacant land stretching along the waterfront from near the Outerbridge to Richmond Valley Road. All the land is located behind Arthur Kill Road and scattered businesses such an animal hospital, beverage company and radiology center.
Through his development team, the media shy Puretz has proposed a novel shopping center with windows, covered walkways and a courtyard picnic area the size of two football fields.
“The beauty of this site is the water,” added Prendamano.
He and a team of consultants and engineers have been in discussions with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Army Corps of Engineers over how to develop around wetlands at the site. Next month, they expect to make a presentation to Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission. Shortly after that they expect to file a formal application with City Planning, which must review and vote on the application.
National retailers, however, have needed little convincing to sign up for the new center.
Those stores have likely witnessed the rise of serious shopping on nearby Veterans Road West, a once desolate highway service road that now serves as home to big box stores Target, Home Depot and Bed, Bath Beyond. Another shopping center is about to open across the street from Target.
Andrew Boyle of the Pennsylvania based Boyle Group, which specializes in leasing and managing outlets and consulted on Puretz’s project, said he received an e mail last week from a high end retailer who called Staten Island a “cash cow.”
“They feel it’s an under served market and in need of some quality high end stores,” Boyle said, before adding: “Anyone can fight through an indoor mall to get something and get out. We are going to give them something else.”
That something else is an ambitious mix of retail development along the water and roadway improvements along two lane Arthur Kill Road, which will serve as the main access route into the area.
Puretz’s people say he plans to widen Arthur Kill Road between the Outerbridge Crossing and Richmond Valley Road, a proposition that involves getting approval from private property owners fronting Arthur Kill.
While the city could take the property for a widening, Puretz will have to compensate owners for such a move. He also hopes to buy out entirely some property owners.
“We are talking to them,” said Realtor John Pitera.
The outlet center itself will contain close to 400,000 square feet of retail space about the same size as the nearby Charleston Bricktown Centre. About 1,700 parking spots would be created in a sloping underground parking garage.
Prendamano said City Planning asked that exposed blacktop be limited, and he said much of the site will be planted and landscaped.
“We are trying to accommodate everyone and we’ve made a year’s worth of changes to the plan,” he added. “This isn’t something we just dreamed up overnight.”
But winning over South Shore residents who feel overwhelmed by all the retailer attention may be difficult.
If the outlet center gets built, there will be nearly a million square feet of retail space in the Charleston and Richmond Valley area. Even the borough president has said that $100 million worth of roadway and infrastructure improvements is needed in the area to accommodate all the stores that could be built over the next decade.
“There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before I could even think of development on that site,” said Linda Hauck of the Tottenville Historical Society. “On paper it does look very nice, but I don’t know if that’s the right spot.”